Below is text from the latest installment of my race column. It appeared in the Setonian and Setonian Online in the October issue.
It occurs to me that my childhood of diversity was unlike that of the majority of the student body at Seton Hill University (SHU).
My townhouse community was filled with alternative lifestyles. On our right lived a gay man named Kelly, a deaf man and Cuban immigrants. To the left was an immigrant Asian family, a couple who believed in home births and no birth control and a black family.
In middle school, I surrounded myself with foreigners: first generation Vietnamese-Americans and a Pakistani Muslim. I joined a writing group led by two immigrants, one Japanese and one Romanian.
In high school, I made friends with a half-Korean, half-German girl who stood loudly and proudly for gay rights. I was surrounded by diversity—by an absurd amount of diversity, but it was normal.
I’m not saying everyone should raise their children like this, or that if you came from some backwater whitebread town that you are somehow lacking. What I am saying is that my “normal” was never limited.What I’m saying is that when I came to SHU, I was not shocked at the lack of color. I was more perturbed by the way no one seemed to notice.
My best friend, who graduated from Hempfield (a local high school), said that SHU was a culture shock to her as well…because there were so many people of color.
Now, I never did like desegregation laws. I thought it was a little absurd. After all, where I came from, people bounded across class and race lines and expectations. People were people.
(This is not to say there isn’t racism in suburbia. Undercover racism actually runs rampant; however, that is a rant for another time.) It seems that things like Affirmative Action, the NAACP and equal opportunity employers are really needed in Greensburg.
At SHU, I see very few blacks who are not athletes, very few Asians and Middle Easterners who are not part of LECOM (the med institution from Lake Eerie). Where’s the Black Student Union or the Asian pride? Where’s the integration? How do I fit in?
Surely every student wonders about their future within their major or circle of friends. What of culture though?
How many non-international students from across the country ask for the whereabouts of their people?
College is all about being uncomfortable, yes. I maintain that it is a challenge on your level of comfort and your ideals. It should be in a safe and inviting environment. It should not be uncomfortable because you cannot find a place of belonging.
Still, I am forced to confront the truth. The diversity at SHU is large only in comparison to its surroundings. The minorities are cliquish, stereotyped and underrepresented. There are few professional role models of varied races.